The essay aims at highlighting the distinctive features of Achille Lauro’s populism between 1947, when his political career began, and 1958, when he resigned as mayor of Naples. Lauro, a businessman and shipowner, not only represented anti-politics, but also embodied an unsuccessful populism by which he ruled Naples. In his political experience he rejected the attitude to mediation and compromise, typical of political parties, while at the same time he fostered the personalization of leadership and the frequent use of innovative propaganda techniques. Both in the local and national context, Achille Lauro built consensus by appealing to monarchist feelings and to the various political claims of a diverse community of people united by the idea of a common Southern Italian identity (rivendicazionismo meridionale). Made up of people of different social classes - from the underclass to property speculators - this community identified itself with its charismatic leader, who would support the ideals and prerogatives of the South against Rome and the North. Through the analysis of unpublished records, the author has also investigated Lauro’s political personality in the broader context of the Cold War. By exporting his populist style, the shipowner tried, in vain, to be acknowledged by the US as a friend, an anti-communist and a pro-Atlanticist.
Keywords: Achille Lauro, populism, anti-politics, monarchists, Southern Italy, electoral campaigns